4th ODI: India v Zimbabwe at Hyderabad, 16 Mar 2002
Anand Vasu

India innings: 25 overs,
Pre-game: Toss & Teams,
Zimbabwe innings: 25 overs, End of innings,

In pursuit of a modest yet potentially tricky 241 to level this five-match series at 2-2, India got off to the worst possible start. Losing three wickets in quick succession, India stumbled to 56/3 before Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif consolidated. After 25 overs, India were 104/3, ahead by very little of Zimbabwe’s 88/3 at the same stage.

Sourav Ganguly, opening the innings with Dinesh Mongia, was the first to go, scoring just 7, when he was caught by Grant Flower off the bowling of Douglas Hondo. VVS Laxman, playing his first international match at home in Hyderabad, got off to a comfortable start, hitting the ball well. Striking two confident boundaries, Laxman got the crowd on its feet.

Mongia, working the ball into the gaps with ease, showed signs of good form, flicking the ball repeatedly through square leg. Unafraid to take the aerial route, Mongia found the fence five times in his 32-ball 30. But, while chasing one well wide of his stumps, Mongia’s strokeplay was his downfall. Travis Friend whooped in delight as Mongia edged one to slip and India slumped to 50/2.

Just six runs later, Laxman too fell, tickling a ball down the leg side to keeper Tatenda Taibu. At 56/3 after 12.1 overs, India were in serious danger of losing their way completely.

Dravid and Kaif, however, made sure that no further wickets fell. The pair took no risks, content to just work the bowling around. For long spells, when even that was not possible, Dravid defended stoutly, not giving an inch. At the halfway mark, Dravid was unbeaten on 17 from 40 balls, while Kaif had helped himself to 31 from 41 balls.

From 88/3 in 25 overs, Zimbabwe did well to reach a total of 240/8 in 50 overs. Having elected to bat, however, Carlisle would certainly have had a bigger target in mind. Fielding with surprising agility and intensity, and bowling with great accuracy, the Indian bowlers performed creditably on the day.

Grant Flower, who has a penchant for playing big shots against the spinners, threw away a period of great application and consolidation when he hit Harbhajan Singh straight down Dinesh Mongia’s throat. His 45 came off just 58 balls and included four hits to the fence.

Murali Kartik, making his limited overs international debut, showed that he had both the technique and the temperament to bowl in this form of the game. The left-arm spinner varied his pace superbly, keeping the batsmen guessing in his spell of 8-0-48-0. The analysis is not flattering, but that was thanks to one man really.

Andrew Flower is the bane of left-arm spinners the world over. If the on-drive was Greg Chappell’s shot, the square cut Gundappa Vishwanath’s trademark, and the cover drive David Gower’s stamp of grace, the reverse sweep must be regarded as Andy Flower’s very own masterstroke. Playing it with more authority, surety and power than anyone else, Andy Flower tormented Kartik, hitting the ball through third man at will.

The fall of Grant Flower, however, saw Andy follow fairly quickly, when the left-hander edged Zaheer Khan through to keeper Ratra. Andy with his 89 (107 balls, 6 fours) was the mainstay of the Zimbabwe innings.

Douglas Marillier (1) and Heath Streak (10) fell trying to accelerate late on. Skipper Stuart Carlisle, coming in at number six, used all his experience to good effect, helping himself to 40 (33 balls, 3 fours) before being bowled by Agarkar off the last ball of the innings. With that wicket, Agarkar sealed a superb spell, ending on 10-2-32-4.

There’s something about a team raising its performance in the face of a challenge that makes sport worth watching, game after game. On Saturday, it was India's turn to prevent the Hyderabad one-dayer from becoming yet another high scoring slam-bang affair on a flat track. Bowling with purpose in the first half of the Zimbabwean innings, they restricted the visitors to 88/3.

After electing to bat, Zimbabwe found themselves pushed on the back foot by a spell of surprising hostility from Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar. Getting the ball to bounce quite nicely on a wicket that had a few fast patches, the pacemen kept a tight line and length.

Zaheer Khan should have had a wicket early on when an edge from Dion Ebrahim flew to Rahul Dravid at slip. After taking the catch early on, Dravid claimed it, but replays could not conclusively prove that the ball had not touched the turf. The third umpire gave Ebrahim the benefit of doubt but it was not to prove costly.

In just the fourth over of the day, Agarkar removed Alistair Campbell (3), with the southpaw edging a pacy delivery to Dravid at slip. Travis Friend the pinch-hitter found a delivery too hot to handle just three balls later. A quick bouncer surprised Friend and the ball lobbed off glove for Ratra to take a sharp catch.

From 13/2, Zimbabwe consolidated for a period of 15 overs or so. Andy Flower and Ebrahim pushed the score sedately on, milking the bowling. A spell of tidy mediumpace with the ball not really coming onto the bat saw Ebrahim (38 runs, 74 balls, 5 fours) perish. Attempting to hit Ganguly over midwicket, Ebrahim presented Dravid with his second catch of the day.

It was, then, left to the brothers Flower to take the Zimbabwe cause forward. Andy Flower (37 not out) motored along in characteristic fashion as Grant Flower (8 not out) provided good support.

India had everything to play for when they walked onto the turf at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium at Hyderabad for the fourth one-dayer against Zimbabwe. Down 1-2 and without the services of several key players, Anil Kumble the latest on the injury list, India have made several changes to their squad.

Yuvraj Singh, fresh from a double hundred in domestic cricket, gets a look in, while left-arm spinner Murali Kartik joins Harbhajan Singh in the spin bowling department. Kartik, who has played Test cricket previously, makes his ODI debut here. It was speculated earlier that Ajay Ratra might be left out and Rahul Dravid asked to don the gloves. All-rounder Sanjay Bangar has been left out of the side.

Zimbabwe skipper Stuart Carlisle won the toss for the first time in the series and elected to bat first. On a wicket that is a bit two-paced and unpredictable, Zimbabwe will be happy that they have Andy Flower back in the side after injury. Craig Wishart has been dropped in favour of Andy Flower.

Teams: Zimbabwe: ADR Campbell, DD Ebrahim, TJ Friend, *SV Carlisle, GW Flower, HH Streak, DA Marillier, A Flower, +T Taibu, DT Hondo, M Mbangwa.

India: *SC Ganguly, D Mongia, VVS Laxman, R Dravid, M Kaif, +A Ratra, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, M Kartik, Z Khan, AB Agarkar.

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Date-stamped : 16 Mar2002 - 22:55